Bennett Blasts Left, Declares 'End of Oslo Era'

Habayit Hayehudi leader tells Herzliya Conference: For 21 years Israeli governments have followed leftist path - now it’s our turn.

Emil Salman

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday that the swearing-in of the Fatah-Hamas unity government marked "the end of the Oslo era."

"After 21 years in which we tried a certain path, which included withdrawals, concessions, release of terrorists, disengagement, unilateral and bilateral separation, the time has come to acknowledge that it doesn't work," Bennett, head of Habayit Hayehudi, said in a speech at the annual Herzliya Conference.

He attacked the Israeli left over its opposition to his plan. "For 21 years Israeli governments have adopted your positions, and we've reached a dead end. Outside of attacking [my] sovereignty plan, what do you propose? For 21 years you were given your chance. Now it's our turn."

The minister said he had a peace plan of his own (which he first rolled out in the 2013 election campaign): gradually asserting Israeli sovereignty over Area C, the 61 percent of the West Bank where Israel, according to the Oslo Accords, has complete control. On the remainder of the West Bank (where well over 90 percent of the territory's Palestinians live), Bennett proposed "autonomy-plus with complete freedom of movement."

Bennett said the first West Bank area that Israel should annex is the Gush Etzion settlement bloc south of Jerusalem, which "belonged to us from before 1948." He added that even if the international community objects to the move at first, "over the years the world will get used to it." Bennett stressed that annexation was not meant to punish the Palestinians, but "rather is simply the right thing to do."

He added: "I call on the prime minister to take the necessary step, even if it is not the easy step: Carry out the sovereignty plan, step by step, and begin by asserting sovereignty over Gush Etzion."

About an hour before their speeches at the Herzliya Conference, Bennett, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni previewed their remarks during the ministers meeting convened by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to explore alternatives in the wake of the failed peace talks.

As at the conference, Livni and Lapid joined forces in threatening to bolt the coalition if any move was made to annex West Bank territory, while Bennett went over his plan to annex most of the West Bank, beginning with Gush Etzion.